With outside contributions in the 2012 federal elections totaling $1 billion, and with the Koch brothers alone already pledging to spend $889 million from their political network in 2016, it’s no wonder 85 percent of Americans agree that the campaign finance system needs serious reform. A particularly disturbing aspect is the prevalence of “dark money,” or political spending by outside Super PACs and so-called social welfare groups with no disclosure requirements. In the 2014 elections, 31 percent of all independent campaign spending was from groups that had no obligation to disclose their donors.
Despite deep concern from their constituents, Congress has been hesitant to take action against dark money being funneled into our elections. Though Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced the Disclose Act, which would require that all organizations disclose their political expenditures, Senate Republicans blocked the Senate majority from being able to vote on it.
The American people haven’t given up just yet. 73 percent support a constitutional amendment that would allow lawmakers to limit political spending. Further, more than 550,000 have signed a petition urging President Barack Obama to issue an executive order requiring government contractors to disclose their political spending.
Just this week, advocates for campaign finance reform experienced a major victory when the DC Circuit unanimously upheld the “pay-to-play” provision that bars federal contractors from donating to federal candidates and party committees. In addition, presidential candidates such as Bernie Sanders, Lindsey Graham, and Hillary Clinton have all expressed support for removing big money’s electoral influence.
“We have to stop the endless flow of secret, unaccountable money that is distorting our elections, corrupting our political process, and drowning out the voices of our people,” said Clinton in her kick-off campaign speech.
The movement against dark money clouding our elections has experienced a momentous push as Americans demand a more transparent campaign finance system.